Nadav in Better Place car_390.
(photo credit: Nadav Shemer)
Pulling out of the Better Place battery-switch station at Saharov Gardens on his
way to Jerusalem on Sunday morning, British immigrant Brian John Thomas lamented
the news circulating about the Israeli electric car company’s decision to
“I personally feel very sad that it hasn’t been made to work,” he
told The Jerusalem Post from his car speakerphone.
“I feel disappointed
in the timing of, for example, when Shai [Agassi] left. I think that massively
affected sales at a critical time.”
Agassi, the founder and former CEO of
Better Place, stepped down in 2012.
While sales may have dropped rapidly,
Thomas stressed that this trend did not speak at all to the quality of the
“The concept and the execution that customers experience on a
daily basis is excellent beyond words,” he said. “It really is something amazing
to see how happy all the customers are." Thomas, who purchased his Better Place
Renault Fluence ZE just over a year ago, explained how the company’s fall speaks
to the “massive failings” of Israelis to warm up to electric vehicles in
general. While Toyota importers have recently started to bring in the plug-in
version of the Prius, other popular plug-in electric cars like the Chevy Volt
and Nissan Leaf have failed thus far to make it to Israel – despite the fact
that their battery ranges would be sufficient for many drivers here, Thomas
“The importers of cars in this country are dead set against
electrification,” he added.
Thomas just as much blamed the government for
its failure to encourage electric car implementation by deciding not to provide
discounted parking rates or Road 6 tolls for electric vehicles, and not ensuring
permanent tax breaks. When Health Ministry Yael German demanded an electric car
for her office, the government refused her request, he added.
hasn’t just been no government support, there has been government hindrance,”
Tossing in some government support, however, when rumors
were circulating that the company would be facing bankruptcy, Environmental
Protection Minister Amir Peretz said on Saturday evening that he would be
turning to the company management in hopes of delaying the decision to
“This is a national project that promises a cleaner and greener
future,” Peretz said. “Its closure would cause serious damage to those who
believed in the new project and who will find themselves in a hopeless
situation, and will bring harm to employees. The State of Israel contributed to
the electric cars so that they were virtually a tax-free purchase. More effort
must be made in order to save this project.”
Although “the car isn’t
perfect,” Thomas spoke of his enjoyment of the quiet ride, and his displeasure
at the fact that he has to ride next to buses spewing diesel
Uncertain as to what will happen with his car in the future,
Thomas said he paid up front for the battery-switch capability and the
electricity usage for four years. If no one ends up purchasing Better Place and
continuing its operations, perhaps the company could give each of its customers
a permanent battery, and they could then use the vehicle as simply a plug-in
car, he suggested.
“If the electricity keeps working but the switch
stations stop working, I can still keep the car,” he said.
however, have to change cars with his wife who tends to drive shorter distances,
as a plug-in vehicle without the option to switch batteries mid-drive can only go
“That’s if I can still get electricity from my apartment,” Thomas
said. “Plug-in cars do work within their limitations and those who drive them
absolutely love them.”
Similarly to Thomas, Yaara Di Segni also purchased
a Better Place car about a year ago and said that she has been “enjoying it
beyond [her] wildest expectations.
“I hope that a solution will be found
for the current crisis as I truly believe electric vehicles are the future and
that battery changing is the way to give the electric car unlimited range,” Di
Segni told the Post
“For me, this makes so much sense, that it
just has to succeed, it is the future, no doubt about it, now we just have to
hope that a way can be found to continue to make this future a
Both the car and the service that came with it were “wonderful”
in Di Segni’s opinion.
“We all took the car for different reasons but
came to realize that we had a Mercedes level car for less than a Mazda and the
service was outstanding.
Something way beyond the normal in
Thomas added, “It really wasn’t about saving money: It was about
driving and feeling good about driving again.”